#1 The Salutation
As we approach this lesson we must understand that the object of this epistle is to destroy all man-made wisdom and all the works of the flesh, no matter how wonderful they may appear in the eyes of men. We must get this through our heads that no matter how sincere we may be in our performance of good works. The scriptures are plain “For by the works of the law, (the outward performance of even the law of God) no flesh will be justified!” It is not what we do but what Christ has done that makes us right with God. The Law was given to open our eyes so that we could actually see how sinful we are! And indeed as we reflect upon the holy law of God and are granted to see the holy standard of perfection required to attain salvation we are brought to utter despair. As God gives us the ability to understand and comprehend the truth, we see that we are without hope, being without God in this world and we are convinced by the Holy Spirit of our sin, the righteousness required to deliver us from the wrath to come, and of the approaching Day of Judgment when God’s true sheep will be separated from the religious goats!
Unfortunately there are many proud and arrogant people who have the nerve to glory in their works saying “We are righteous” or “God will weigh my good against my bad and I’ll come out alright!” They know nothing of the nature of God or of themselves or they would not utter such foolishness. But unless the Lord opens their eyes they will not see the truth about themselves, until it is too late. We have seen in the scriptures, a group of men, the Pharisees, who further than the former group to the point that they actually believed themselves to be so holy, so righteous, so exacting and perfect in their obedience to the Mosaic Law that, by their own merit, they stood justified before a Holy God. They believed, though they may not have uttered such blasphemy out loud, that they had achieved sinless perfection in this life which is why they could look down on the regular people, the great unwashed, philistine public and pronounce a curse upon them. The rabble just weren’t good enough to be in their group.
There were others to be sure, who though not religious in a biblical sense, wanted to be perfect and so would go through all kinds of contortions to achieve their goal. They would sit on top of fifty foot poles, or whip themselves to purge themselves of human impurity. Or they would seek enlightenment by sitting in front of a wall. All were looking for answers but found none for, apart from Jesus Christ, “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” (Ac 4:12)
Today we see many religions which profess to be the true religion but upon closer examination it is evident that they are just part of many others who are trying to work themselves into some state of grace. But outside of Christ there is no grace such as they are looking for. They attempted to reach heaven by their own means, by their own ‘Tower of Babel, of wisdom. But Paul declares in (Ro 1:22) that these men and women, “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools…” They are fools and blind! They willfully stop their ears to the truth and suppress the truth of God in unrighteousness! The people of this world have rejected the righteousness of God, the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith and they have decided to work out a righteousness of their own.
There is only one way to heaven! There is only one gate, one path, one Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Though it may be politically incorrect to speak of exclusivity, the scriptures remain true when they say in (Eph 4:4-6) “There is one body, (one true called out assembly) and one Spirit, (the Holy Spirit) even as ye are called in one hope (one way of salvation through Jesus Christ) of your calling; (Paul repeats his statement in another way saying that there is only) 5 One Lord, (Jesus Christ) (There is only) one faith, (the faith granted to us as a gift from God Himself) one baptism, (the immersion into Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit) 6 One (True God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”
This all exclusive God reigns as Lord of all His creation, and rightfully so. He is the potter and we are the clay. He has molded each and every person and creature into vessels for either honorable or common use. He has created all things; even the wicked for the day of evil and all flesh shall bow before His glorious throne and proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father! This He will do, no matter how much people protest here on earth. On the day of His return men will lay their hands to their mouths and there will be silence, except from the throats of those who long for His appearing and who have prayed, “Even so come Lord Jesus, come quickly.” This is the truth of Scripture and this is the truth that Paul will declare to us in this letter. As we begin with his salutation we are going to examine the words that Paul uses as he addresses this church at Rome. As we do, consider yourselves as being addressed by Paul. Beginning with verse 1 we read, “Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, Lets stop there for a moment. Paul refers to himself as a ‘bondservant of Jesus Christ. Exactly what is a bondservant? Is it different from a regular servant? The answer to this question is YES!
You see, many times in the life of the nation of Israel men would get down on their luck so to speak and they would hire themselves out as servants in order to stay alive. Some rich patron would purchase them and they would be servants for fifty years. But the fiftieth year was the year of Jubilee. On the day of Jubilee all servants/slaves were released. Not only that but all he had owned at the time of his entrance into servitude would be restored to him! Interestingly if he was given a wife by his master, she wasn’t included in his release package. Perhaps she had born many ‘little servants’ and her master didn’t want to lose a valuable commodity. I’m merely speculating. But the scriptures tell us in (Ex 21:4-6) that “If his master gives him a wife, and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall belong to her master, and he shall go out alone. This seems to bear out my speculation. But what if the servant didn’t want to leave? What happened then? Well there was a contingency plan in place for such an eventuality. We read in verse 5 “But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife and my children; I will not go out as a free man,’ 6 then his master shall bring him to God, then he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him permanently.”
This hole was a mark that symbolized the servants love for his master and his desire to serve him from that heart of love. In reality this man was a ‘love slave’ and everyone who saw him would know this exact truth. The hole was an outward sign of an inward commitment! Returning to our text we see that Paul had a spiritual hole in his ear. He called himself Christ’s bondservant, His love-slave! He was not being dragged to serve the Lord but having been granted a new heart; he exercised his heart in serving God, cheerfully. It was Paul’s joy to do what Jesus called him to do. Can you say this about yourselves? Do you have a ‘spiritual hole’ in your ear? Do you serve God from a heart of love or from guilt and fear? If you do serve God, is yours a service of love or compulsion? How you answer will speak volumes about your spiritual state. If it is from love then this is evidence of the new heart. If you serve God for any other reason, you had better reexamine your life to see whether or not you are in the faith! You don’t want to be a castaway! You don’t want to be like Ignorance who got all the way to the gate and was bound hand and foot and cast into outer darkness! The scriptures tell us that “Now is the time, today is the day of salvation.” In the same way, now is the time and today is the day for self examination! Look into your heart right now and ask yourselves if you really love God or are you just afraid of the consequences of not ‘obeying Him”!
Paul loved the Lord and proved it by his self sacrificial life. In (1John 2:6) we read that “the one who says he abides in Him (Jesus) ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. The word walk comes from the Greek word “peripateo” which means to be occupied with or to regulate one’s life or to conduct one’s self. Paul walked with Jesus and sought to emulate/imitate His life as much as was humanly possible. He strove to live as Jesus lived! When Jesus called his disciples He said two words; “FOLLOW ME!” This was a command! Just as there are Ten Commandments and not Ten suggestions, so too here is a command follow, emulate/imitate Him. It is not an optional/alternative lifestyle that Jesus is offering to the world if they should choose to take Him up on His offer. It is a call to leave the world and follow Him, live for Him, obey Him.
Paul heard and obeyed for His call is His command and His command is His enabling. The Psalmist tells us that “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power…” When God speaks, His voice creates faith and life and a new heart, a new spirit and a new creation. (2Co 5:17) Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. Those who possess the new heart become the Lord’s bondservants! Notice the next line in verse 1…called to be an apostle, Notice that Paul didn’t say, Paul an apostle, called to be a bondservant. He did not put his hands on his robe in a posture of arrogance and exalt himself as an Apostle, but he spoke of his servant-hood first. Again he was reminding us of the words of Jesus. I call your attention first to (Mr 9:35) where Jesus was dealing with ‘self seeking’ disciples. They had been discussing the topic of who was the greatest! And so, “Sitting down, He called the twelve and *said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.”
(John 13:3-15) He gave them a visual example of what He meant. We read… “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, 4 *got up from supper, and *laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself. 5 Then He *poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. 6 So He *came to Simon Peter. He *said to Him, “Lord, do You wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered and said to him, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.” 8 Peter *said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” 9 Simon Peter *said to Him, “Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.” 10 Jesus *said to him, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” 11 For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, “Not all of you are clean.” 12 So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 “You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. 14 “If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 “For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.
And so Paul saw himself as a servant of Jesus Christ first, then points out that he had been called by God to the office of Apostle which means “messenger” or “one sent with orders!” Paul had been commissioned by Jesus Christ to do something. And it wasn’t to sit back and stroke his beard and say “I’m an Apostle”! Notice in our text that Paul had been separated to the gospel of God… Paul had been set apart for a special purpose and that purpose was to preach, to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world. This was his heavenly commission. Now I want to bring up the subject of ordination for a moment and for this reason; I have been told that a church ordains a man to the ministry after first recognizing that he has the gift of preaching. Using that logic, Paul would have never been ordained by any man. You will recall that after having received his sight back he immediately went to church and began reasoning with the congregation from the scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah.
Did they recognize his gift? No! Instead they wanted to stone him. They wanted him dead. They didn’t like what he preached or how he preached. They only recognized that he was telling them things they didn’t want to know and they hated him for it to the point that they wanted to kill him! The difference here is that Paul had been ordained by God to preach and he was faithful to declare the whole council of God no matter what the consequences. He preached the Gospel of God 2 which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, (the Gospel as it had been proclaimed in the Old Testament). Doesn’t this just make you feel sorry for those men and women who have rejected the Old Testament in favor of New Covenant Theology? They have stopped their ears to the truth of the Word of God.
But in verse 3 we read that the Old Testament declares Gods message concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, Turn with me to (1Chr 17:10-14) “And since the time that I commanded judges to be over my people Israel. Moreover I will subdue all thine enemies. Furthermore I tell thee that the LORD will build thee an house. 11 And it shall come to pass, when thy days be expired that thou must go to be with thy fathers, that I will raise up thy seed after thee, which shall be of thy sons; and I will establish his kingdom. 12 He shall build me an house, and I will establish his throne for ever. 13 I will be his father, and he shall be my son: and I will not take my mercy away from him, as I took it from him that was before thee: 14 But I will settle him in mine house and in my kingdom for ever: and his throne shall be established for evermore.” Here we have a double meaning for this speaks of David’s immediate descendant Solomon and those who would come after him. But this is also a Messianic passage for just like in Genesis 3:15 we read of the Seed of the woman, here we are to understand that Jesus would come from the human family of David. And it is this Seed that God speaks of establishing a Throne forever. Question: How can we understand it to be so? Answer: Is Solomon still on the throne of Israel? No. But Jesus Christ rose from the dead and IS SEATED AT THE RIGHT HAND OF THE THRONE OF GOD! In (Heb 1:8) we read “But about the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom. Here is the final fulfillment of the prophesy that is recorded in 1st Chronicles. This Jesus who came to earth; the Word made flesh and dwelling among us, demonstrated the power of God in an unmistakable way! Verse 4 tells us that He was …declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. Nicodemus declared that “No one can do the works you do except God is with Him!” So whether they liked it or not, they couldn’t deny that He did many mighty works. To get around this they accused Him of being in league with the devil. But He blew that argument out of the water with His “House divided” answer!
Now going back to that ordination thing; Jesus Himself couldn’t be ordained in the majority of the Churches that are in existence today because they wouldn’t like His message any more than they did Paul’s. And Paul merely spoke the words of Jesus. Even though the majority of the people didn’t believe this matters not for He is God. Question: So if no one would believe Jesus, who then can be saved? Answer: with men this is impossible but with God all things are possible. You see it was God Himself who kept them from believing. We read in (Isa 44:18) “They do not know, nor do they understand, for He has smeared over their eyes so that they cannot see and their hearts so that they cannot comprehend.”
In (Joh 1:18) we see the supernatural character of salvation. Men do not seek God on their own, nor will they believe in Jesus on their own. For those who say “I have seen God, the scriptures are plain; “No one has seen God at any time; God told Moses that no flesh can look on Him and live. His Holy Presence would consume sinful man. But God has provided the way in which men can come to Him and believe on Him. Jesus Christ, the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. He has revealed the unrevealable so that when you see Jesus you have seen the Father, when you come to Jesus, you are coming to the Father. And all this is by His doing. 1Co 1:30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, (Ac 2:39) “For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.”
Paul continues in verse 5 of our text saying that “Through Him we have received grace unmerited favor, unearned kindness, undeserved love! We are in Christ today because He chose us! And we will remain in Christ because He chooses to keep us in Him! This truth should humble us and make us grateful people, not the arrogant, snide, self – centered sinners that we are. Yes I said sinners for that is what we are. We are sinners that have been saved by grace and the majority of every day we live on this earth is spent in self – centeredness. We act as if we did not receive that which we have. We boast every day and we belch out prideful enunciations at God whereas if we looked at ourselves aright we would be humble like the dust that we are and lift songs of praise to God from whom all blessings flow. We must get off our high horses and cast our ‘crowns’ of pride before the feet of Him who sits on the Throne, calling upon Him to forgive us and have mercy upon such wickedness as we manifest on a daily basis! Get this thing through your head, WE HAVE RECEIVED GRACE! We are not the author’s of our salvation, we are the recipients! If we have any hope of heaven it is because God has had compassion on us and has stooped down to lift us out of the dunghill that used to be our home. You doubt that? Just take a sniff of yourself sometime and you will smell the stench of the dunghill of the old nature!
And having done so, bow your head in thanksgiving to the LORD God Almighty who deigned to set His love upon such wickedness as we are! Not only that but He has transformed us from lost to found, from goat to sheep, from orphans to adopted children of God! Be thankful for “Through Him (because of Him, according to His will) we have received grace… Referring to himself Paul says that not only has he received salvation in Christ Jesus but a commission to preach the gospel. He says that he has received grace and apostleship (a ministry) for obedience to (preach the truth of the one and only faith the one and only way to God, that we might go among all nations and call men everywhere to repentance for His name,
That is the ministry of apostleship. And again Paul includes us when he says that 6 someone came among us and declared the truth. God had mercy upon us and now we are included in the roll call of the faithful. He says that now whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; What mercy! What love! Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! (1Jo 3:1a)
Paul finishes his salutation in verse 7 with a benediction “To all who are in Rome, (again we are being addressed here as the beloved of God, called to be saints: and to us Paul says; “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”